Get Task & Purpose in your inbox
The Corps' top west coast general is readying his Marines for the next big war
The Marine Corps' top general on the west coast is readying his Marines for the next big war against a near peer competitor, and one of his main concerns is figuring out how to alter the mindset of troops that have been fighting insurgencies since 9/11.
"If anything my problem is getting people out of the mindset of [counterterrorism] and making sure they're thinking about near peer adversaries in their training programs," Lt. Gen. Joseph Osterman, commanding general of I Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Pendleton, California, told Task & Purpose in an interview on Friday.
Exercise Pacific Blitz is one program in particular that is currently doing just that, involving thousands of Marines, sailors, and coast guardsmen training in and around southern California. The joint exercise not only brings together a large number of personnel but various assets as well, including Navy ships and landing craft, CH-53 helicopters, V-22 Ospreys, F-35s, and High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), a ground-based artillery system the Marines have previously test-fired from amphibious transport ships.
The bigger picture goal: Getting a large force like the 50,000-strong I MEF from sea to shore in a contested environment, described by the general in a press release as leveraging "a Marine land component as part of our larger goal of sea control."
Osterman even said personnel were being put ashore at nearby Catalina Island to build aircraft runways — seemingly a throwback to the Marine Corps' island-hopping campaigns of World War II.
"It's not part of the exercise necessarily but that's kind of one of the things we'd have to do on these remote islands is build runways. So it's somewhat tangentially aligned," Osterman said. "We're doing connector capability between islands."
In February, Marine Commandant Gen. Robert Neller told Task & Purpose the Corps had begun to move its training to a more traditional fight instead of what grunts would face against unsophisticated enemies in the Middle East, most notably in using more advanced enemies in force-on-force training against Marines going through pre-deployment training at 29 Palms, California.
"They had aircraft. They were able to jam [communications]. We had aircraft. And we fought force on force," Neller said on the sidelines of the 2019 West Conference in San Diego. "Marine infantry now, they've gotta look up" since enemies in Syria and Iraq have increasingly used unmanned aerial vehicles, and near peers will have assets such as attack helicopters and artillery.
As Osterman explained, Marine grunts now need to learn how to counter enemy drones, prepare for their GPS or communications to be jammed, and understand that enemy artillery, aircraft, or reconnaissance capabilities will be much more advanced if they're up against an adversary like China or Russia.
"We haven't had to worry about that for two decades," Osterman said. "The Taliban doesn't have any satellites up there."
Some of Osterman's Marines have already had a taste of that in Syria, where state and non-state actors have employed high-end anti-aircraft systems, GPS jamming technology, or hacking, for example.
"The Special Purpose [Marine Air Ground Task Force] we send to Central Command is engaged in all of that. High end, you know, kinetics in Syria, all the way down through advising the Iraqi forces. It's one where we've gotta do it all, frankly."
"Instead of having a forward operating base out there that they're living out of and doing operations they've actually got to constantly be moving because if they sit too long the enemy artillery is going to take them out," Osterman said of tactics Marines are beginning to think about. "So that gets them almost a little bit, back to [their] roots."
SEE ALSO: Forget 'The Art of War': Everything You Need To Know About Military Leadership Is In 'Star Trek'
WATCH: US Marines go head-to-head against British Royal Marines
The Navy is investigating reports that a female Marine discovered a hidden camera in one of the women's restrooms aboard the USS Arlington, an amphibious transport dock that's currently on at port in Greece, NBC News originally reported.
Today, an American service member died in a "non-combat incident" in Ninawa Province, Iraq according to a statement by Operation Inherent Resolve, the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State.
"I held one [sailor] in my hands as he passed. He died in my arms."
It's been 30 years since an explosion inside the number two gun turret on the USS Iowa killed 47 American sailors, but for Mike Carr, it still feels like yesterday.
"I knew all 47 guys inside that turret because as part of the ship's policy we had rotated between all three turrets," Carr, who served as a gunner's mate in the Iowa's aft 16-inch turret, told Task & Purpose. "We all knew each other rather intimately."
On April 19, 1989, the day of the blast, the ship was preparing for live-fire training at Vieques, Puerto Rico Naval Training Range.
Carr was wearing headphones that allowed him to hear what the crews in the other turrets were saying.
"At 10 minutes to 10 a.m., somebody came over the phones and said, 'We're having a problem, Turret 2, center gun,'" Carr recalled. "Then approximately two minutes later, I recognized Senior Chief [Reginald] Ziegler, who was the chief in charge of Turret 2, yell into the phones: 'Fire, fire, fire! Fire in center gun, turret 2. Trying to contain it.'"
Then came the blast, which was so strong that it ripped the headphones right off Carr's head.
Organizations offer training, certifications, networking to connect veterans, businesses
As a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and a newly minted second lieutenant, I felt well-prepared to tackle the challenges facing a junior field artillery officer in the U.S. Army. When the time came to leave the Army, however, I was much less prepared to make the transition into the yet-unknown civilian sector.
One of the primary issues facing veterans after we transition is that we lack the same sense of purpose and mission that we had with our military careers. Today, more than ever, our service members volunteer to put themselves in harm's way. They are defending our freedom across the globe and should be recognized as our country's true heroes. It's critical that employers educate veterans and provide viable options so we can make informed decisions about the rest of our lives.
The two-star general in charge of the roughly 15,000-strong 2nd Marine Division has turned micromanagement into an art form with a new policy letter ordering his Marines and sailors to cut their hair, shave their faces, and adhere to a daily schedule that he has prescribed.
In his "Policy Letter 5-19," Maj. Gen. David Furness lamented that he has noticed "a significant decline in the basic discipline" of troops he's come in contact with in the division area, which has led him to "FIX IT immediately," instead of relying on the thousands of commissioned and non-commissioned officers below him to carry out his orders.